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by solidarity forever Monday, Jun. 23, 2003 at 11:12 AM

ON MONDAY 6/23, join fellow workers in the Northeast by call SEIU President Andy Stern at 1-800-424-8592 to demand democracy in the Northeast: -STOP ATTACKING AND DENYING REPRESENTATION TO UNION DISSIDENTS -END THE TRUSTEESHIPS. HOLD FAIR ELECTIONS IN BOSTON, PHILADELPHIA and NEW YORK PRESS RELEASE FROM SEI

SEIU has been attacking union democracy in the Northeast.

IN BOSTON, a trusteeship has been going on past the legal limit, because

members, pissed off at a bad contract, do not support the

International's candidate. Votes on changing local structure are held

over and over again until the International gets the results they want.

IN NEW YORK, trustee Mike Fishman manipulated the constitution to become

president and is swallowing up smaller locals. ( more info: )

IN PHILADELPHIA, Local 36 members who served on the bargaining committee have publicly come forward to say that the recent contract negotiations in which the union settled for big healthcare cuts were railroaded through in a manipulative proceeding. Now members who voice their opinion get interrogated, harrassed, and attacked when they try to get their grievances handled.

ON MONDAY 6/23, join fellow workers in the Northeast by call SEIU

President Andy Stern at 1-800-424-8592 to demand democracy in the






a rank and file committee fighting for union democracy


For Immediate Release June 20th, 2003

WHO: SEIU Local 36 United For Power, a group of Local 36 members

fighting for democracy and member control of their union

WHAT: Members demand accountability in upcoming contract negotiations

The SEIU Local 36 United For Power Committee, a group of Local 36

members fighting for democracy and member control of their union are

concerned about upcoming negotiations with residential building

owners. The negotiations were written about in a Philadelphia Weekly

article that came out this week. Members are frightend of a repeat of

negotiations with office building owners which five members of the

negotiating committee say were “railroaded through.”

“We do not want more negotiations like the one he just did with our

health and welfare benefits. If there’s a way we will stop him,” says

United For Power Committee member Elba Mercado, a janitor in the PECO


In May, SEIU Local 36, a union for office building janitors and

engineers in Philadelphia, concluded early negotiations for the BOLR

master contract that covers most large office buildings in Center City

Philadelphia. The settlement included new premiums for dependent care,

a reduced dental plan, and larger copays for medicines. In early June,

a group of five members from the negotiating committee wrote a letter

to complain about the negotiation and ratification process which they

described as a “dog and pony show and rubber stamp designed to keep

[Trustee Wyatt Closs] from having to take responsibility for your

decisions.” Copies of the letter and petitions calling for an election

of officers are being distributed by the Local 36 United For Power

Committee, a group of rank and file members concerned about democracy

in the local.

The local was placed under international trusteeship last year after a

group of militant shop stewards and organizing staff began running the

local office during a dispute over the presidency of the local. Under

the trusteeship, the constitution and by-laws of the local have been

dissolved and Trustee Wyatt Closs the union’s international

headquarters has been given complete authority over the local.

Last week, members of the negotiating committee who signed the letter of

complaint and their supporters began suffering harassment from union

staff when trying to file grievances. When Gina Reyes, a janitor in the

Centre Square building, was at the union attempting to deal with sexual

harassment in her building, the meeting was interrupted by Education

Director Barbara Rocky. Barbara Rocky grabbed Gina Reyes by the neck

and squeezed it and said, “I was very disappointed to see your

signature on that letter.” When Monica Roberts was waiting outside her

building for a grievance paper, she was surrounded by organizer Liz

Oakley and members from across town who interrogated Monica about the

letter and insinuated that office cleaners were too stupid to write it.

Delbert Franklin, an outspoken member, was screamed at by a member who

supports the trustee.

The Local 36 United For Power Committee is asking concerned members of

the community to call SEIU President Andy Stern at 1-800-424-8592 and

to email Trustee Wyatt Closs at to demand that SEIU

respect the opinions of its members. The members are demanding the

right to be represented by their union without being harassed for their


Below is a copy of an open letter to Trustee Wyatt Closs which was

signed by five union members from the BOLR Contract Negotiating Team:

Mr. Wyatt Closs


SEIU Local #36

Suite 200

24 South 15th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19102

Dear Mr. Closs:

The purpose of this letter is to state reasons for which I did not sign

the 2003 BOLR contract, and to also draw your official attention to the

fact that the said document, if presented as is, will not serve the

purpose for which it was intended - that the essence of our two-week

deliberations were fruitless.

In the first place, the Bargaining Team was initially informed that the

bargaining process was in fact, a negotiated settlement of SEIU Local

#36’s Health Benefit Funds, which were sinking. And that something

needed to be done immediately to avoid the funds being depleted before

the life of the present contract, which expires October 15, 2003. There

is no reason to have forced the negotiations to finish in two weeks

when we have five months before the former agreement expires. The

contract was railroaded through so fast that the committee was not

given ample time to really examine and think about what was in the


The committee was not really listened to, in that, discussions were

being held behind closed doors. The meetings that were held in private,

behind our backs, between you and management superseded our decisions.

This is not only a betrayal of the confidence that we had in you: many

members of the committee feel that they were put through an elaborate

con game.

For example, there was the quick resolution of the Martin Luther King, The committee resolved that we would not give in on our

demand to have Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday. We did not

agree to give up one personal day for Martin Luther King Day; we had

firmly agreed that we wanted Martin Luther King Day as a normal paid

holiday. The abrupt position taken by you to convert one of the

personal days into Dr. King’s holiday confused many members who were

given no opportunity to defend the committee’s position. The

introduction of the holiday commencing November 2005 is of no use,

because it does not take effect until February 2006, after we will have

been paying more for our health care for three years.

The process for the ratification was suspicious. Notices for the

ratification meeting were not sent out in time for many members to

attend. Members who tried to vote while on their lunch break from

working that day were not allowed to vote, because they did not have

time to watch the video first. The way the ballot was worded left out

the possible option of returning to the negotiating table and scared

members into voting for the agreement.

The truth is that we were not involved in the contract negotiations at

all. You had already made the decisions. The committee was formed as a

rubber stamp and as a dog and pony show to protect you from having to

take responsibility for your decisions.

In another development, I want to touch on the matter of moving the

office. If the health fund is near bankruptcy, why is the union

spending tens of thousands of dollars to move the office to a location

that is less accessible to public transportation? That is our money. I

want to know how much is being spent on movers, architects,

construction, and rent. It is also my understanding that the union pays

a huge amount of money for your living quarters in Rittenhouse Square.

Would it not be better for the union were you to relocate to a less

expensive apartment, since in fact the union does not have sufficient

funds to facilitate its day to day activities. Is it possible for

members to know the full account of all the monies spent by the

trusteeship, since in fact this is the members’ money? These questions

are being raised to allude to the fact that the cry of the trustees

that the union and heath fund are broke might be crocodile tears. If

this is not true, please answer the above mentioned inquiries.

The bottom line is that the members need to have an election so that

they can elect chosen representatives who really listen to and work for


Yours truly,

Montgomery Saah

Monica Roberts

Gina Reyes

Ray Hernandez

Luiz Hurtado

Members, 2003 BOLR Negotiating Committee

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